A stolen photo of my family was used in a way I never imagined

Pictures of my kids were turned into memes by overzealous Scandal fans

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I’d thought I’d seen it all. That was until a friend and die-hard Scandal fan direct messaged me a photo of my kids’ heads Photoshopped in with Olivia Pope and Fitzgerald Grant. She found it on a Scandal fan page and thought I should know.

…Like many bloggers, I take precautions to copyright my work, add some watermarks and disable right clicks. But sometimes it’s just not enough to deter a photo snatcher. Through the years, my photographs have popped up in interesting places. To name a few:

  •    A stock photo website
  •    A Facebook meme supporting gay marriage
  •    In examples of a poster “multiracial family”
  •    A church flier in South Carolina
  •    Stock Etsy birthday cards
  •    And most recently, that Scandal fan club site

…In all seriousness, it’s more than a little disconcerting. People ask how I am not losing my mind over this, and the truth is, I have. I’ve tracked down and contacted numerous websites and asked for my family’s photos to be removed. I’ve sent a dozen cease and desist letters. Most came down without a response. Some came down with a profuse apology.

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My Dear, Dear, Dear Watson

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Part of the Internet’s beauty is the space it affords people to take an idea and run with it . . . and run with it and run with it, until they end up miles away from where they started. Among a subset of online superfans of the BBC show “Sherlock,” solving mysteries is mere window dressing for the real story: one about unrequited love between Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman).

This sort of wholesale invention, by viewers, of a romance between fictional characters who are not romantically linked on-screen is a form of something known as “shipping” (short for “relationship-ing,” the term can also refer to rooting for actual fictional couples).

It is by no means limited to “Sherlock” — any form of pop culture, from “Scandal” to One Direction, is fair game — but that show has inspired vast and vivid fictional worlds, completely imagined by shippers who share screenshots, drawings and even entire books…